After two poor starts to begin the season, Justin Masterson and Josh Tomlin turned in excellent performances against two of the better lineups in the league.
Tomlin was somewhat less than decent in his first stint with the Indians, going at least five innings in every start but giving up a 85 ERA+ in 73 innings. But he impressed the Indians this spring, and that form carried over into at least his first start. Facing one of the more patient lineups in baseball, Tomlin never seemed to give in. Over seven innings, he gave up just three hits, only one of which was an extra-base hit.
Compared to the first three right-handers in the rotation, Tomlin's physical gifts aren't impressive. He's listed at 6'1", rather short for a right-handed pitcher, and his fastball usually sits around 90 mph. But it looks like he has good command of four pitches (fastball, cut fastball, curve, change), and that can overcome a lot of other failings. Tomlin shouldn't have been a surprise to Boston, as he also pitched well against the Sawx last August 5 (7.0 IP, 4 H, 4 ER). The second time around facing a good team is a key test for pitchers without overwhelming stuff, and Tomlin passed that exam tonight.
Josh Beckett also made his first start of the season, and his first start against the Indians since inciting a brawl last August 3. Beckett's fastball isn't good enough to throw by hitters in the middle of the plate, and he threw a lot more off-speed stuff than I'm accustomed to seeing. He had trouble putting away a lot of Tribe hitters, and his pitch count piled up through the first couple of innings. He was out of gas by the end of the fifth, having worked very hard to limit the damage to three runs on five hits. If MLB is serious about speeding up the game, they should start with pitchers like Beckett; with runners on, he brought the game to a crawl.
Travis Hafner's bat speed looks as quick as in his prime. The book on Hafner in recent years is to throw the fastball past him inside. That hasn't worked early this season; he's getting the bat head out in front of those inside pitches and pulling them. It is Shin-Soo Choo who looks slow at the plate, not Hafner.
Tony Sipp was impressive in his inning of relief, making quick work of the bottom of Boston's order. Chris Perez, after not getting the call against Dustin Pedroia, faced David Ortiz as the go-ahead run in the bottom of the ninth, but Ortiz lined out to Austin Kearns to end the game.
Next Up: Boston, 7:05 p.m.